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  1. Originally from Gus Van Horn, I must confess that I have not been following the recent debate over immigration legislation terribly closely, but I did find these three articles particularly worthwhile for bringing up things that those in favor of tighter controls on immigration for America (of all places) ought to consider. I'll tick them off along with some thoughts. The first two I heard about courtesy of TIA Daily . (1) There's lots I disagree with in this Peggy Noonan piece, but her central point is excellent. This would be part of why we keep seeing Mexican flags flown over American ones during these protests -- by folks who fled Mexico to get here. Peggy Noonan's point is, furthermore, made in spades in France, where hoardes of unassimilated immigrants rioted recently. (2) And as for the economic "arguments" for limiting immigration, Tony Snow does a good job demolishing many of these. I particularly liked what he said about foreign consumption of social services. The argument that immigrants use lots of social services and that therefore immigration should be greatly curtailed is exactly backward. It is not immigration, but social services, we should be talking about drastically curtailing. It is worth noting the similarity in this aspect of the immigration debate with that of the drive by the left to penalize Wal-Mart for taking advantage of existing government programs to provide medical and other coverages to some of its employees. As I said back in August -- and you could just about do nothing else but swap "immigration" for "Wal-Mart" here: Hmmm. In fact, later in that same post, I noted this very similarity! (3) Finally, via RealClear Politics , is an article by Dick Morris on a security issue you might not have thought of (unless you have wisely been following this blog over the past year) with respect to national security. Morris warns that AMLO is positioning himself to take advantage of a significant anti-immigration shift in our policy. I don't necessarily agree that we should cast our votes based on what people in another country think, but the Morris piece helps illustrate how events in Mexico could compound what already looks like folly to me, curtailing immigration.
  2. Reminder: April 3rd, is the deadline for early registration for James Valliant's lectures on Ayn Rand. For full details and to sign up visit: http://www.chicagoobjectivists.org http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000744.html
  3. Originally from Gus Van Horn Today, the Houston Chronicle carried an editorial by Nora Gallagher that had originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times. The article is titled "Enough of the cheap shots at Christianity" and subtitled, "Gratuitous barbs and criticisms meant to sting, and they do". The article presents itself as a both defense of Christianity against unfair criticism and as a call for a more enlightened approach to religion, for Christians to "examine our faith constantly in the light of human reason". But is it either of these? Or is it instead an attempt to scuttle debate about religion entirely? At the beginning of the article, Ms. Gallagher starts out by raising some legitimate grievances about the reflexive and seemingly constant barrage against Christianity that seems de rigueur for a card-carrying leftist these days. Here are a few. The second one really had me rolling my eyes. Only a liberal would go into shock at the sight of a crucifix (of all things) hanging on the wall of a Catholic high school. Shortly afterwards, however, things get more interesting when Gallagher attempts to dismiss two entire books as fashionable, gratuitous attacks on Christianity. I have read Harris's book, but not Dennett's (and have no intention to). There are very many things wrong with Sam Harris's book (as I discuss here), first and foremost that it does not reject the fundamental approach to knowledge taken by religion. However, Harris does raise some serious questions about religion in his book that one cannot correctly dismiss as just another cultural tic of the left, like granola, patchouli, or feigned surprise about the use Christian symbols by Christians. For example -- and this also gets us to the matter of the atom bomb very nicely, Harris made the following trenchant observation about religious faith. It might be that reason -- and not faith -- gave us the atom bomb, whose original use saved countless American lives during a brutal war with Japan because it -- and not faith -- teaches us about the world. Technology like the atom bomb is indeed the product of man's mind, it is how we use it that makes a difference. If Ms. Gallagher is going to condemn the "unfettered use of reason" for producing an atom bomb, perhaps she should condemn reason altogether for allowing man, through its more "fettered" use, to invent the hammer and nails used to crucify her deity. Of course, the "fetters" Ms Gallagher would impose are moral fetters. I don't know about her thoughts on carpentry supplies, but I would surmise that she would have rather not had the atom bomb invented in the first place, American lives saved or not. And if Gallagher is going to fault secular thinkers for failing to address the atom bomb -- if she is going to pretend that there is no reason in reason to be moral, it is fair to point out that she fails to mention the only modern secular thinker to propose a moral system based upon reason, Ayn Rand. And now, going from justifiable indignation at constant leftists sniping about religion, to summarily dismissing the criticisms of two books as fashionable drivel, to blaming reason for the misuse of atomic weapons, Gallagher goes all the way on to a real tour de force of equivocation: "Secular fundamentalism?" And this whopper is coming from a woman who apparently equates criticism of religion with gratuitous slams! The question, "Who's next?" just answered itself! And then, after simply papering over any and all criticism of religion, Gallagher then apparently goes on the attack, herself! Note that after dismissing as without intellectual merit any criticism of religion, she claims to know why some criticize religion! She goes on with a call for -- and this is about as surprising as spotting a crucifix in a Catholic high school -- calls for Christians to sacrifice themselves to others. Interestingly, this call for sacrifice, which is completely consistent with the Christian morality, is held up as an example of the reformation of the Christian faith. Gallagher is partly right, but this is arguably worse than being completely wrong. Yes. Most non-Christians dislike the idea of being forced by the state to live according to Christian religious strictures just as much as (I hope) Christians would dislike being made to live under, say, Islamic law. Indeed, this willingness to separate church and state is an enormous benefit to the West and does, in fact, represent a great step forward for the Christian world. But this is not the same thing as sacrificing oneself to others. Nor is resisting the predations of a monster like Hitler necessarily self-sacrificial. But the fact that it is reformed does not make her religion in particular -- or religion as such -- exempt from criticism. What is wrong with a theocracy that makes separation of church and state a good thing? Might it have something to do with the fact that men, who hold certain beliefs for which they feel no need to argue, find the apparatus of the state a convenient tool to "defend" their faith from those who would not practice it if left to their own devices? And could it be that such men are wrong about something, and that forcing everyone else to live by their incorrect conclusions will lead to disaster? And, more to the point, how does faith , "elief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence", lead to knowledge of any kind? If, Ms. Gallagher, it can be bad for a state to impose a religion upon a people, might an individual be justifiably leery of guiding his life with principles accepted without "logical proof or material evidence"? The notion of committing great sacrifices on such a basis makes me wonder: How does someone who relies on faith decide whether to oppose a Hitler or fly a plane into a building? There is certainly a rational case to be made for the former, but not for the latter. To dismiss my concern as an ad hominem attack or a fashion statement as Gallagher does worries me even more. And I haven't even gotten around to asking why the calls for greater tolerance are being directed at Christians while Moslem fanatics are never once mentioned -- but Bush is rather symbolically criticized. Consider this paragraph. Is this an attempt to convince Christian Republicans not to support the war effort, or capitalism? To shame leftists into accepting Jesus? Or both? And again, why does Gallagher ignore Islamic terrorism, the biggest story by far of men acting in accordance with their faith?
  4. Posted by ARImedia If the government does not protect our freedom of speech by force, America will join Europe's climate of self-censorship. To cite just a few of depressingly many examples: a painter, Rashid Ben Ali, is forced into hiding after one of his shows "featured satirical work critical of Islamic militant's violence"; a politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, must go underground after it becomes known that she has renounced her Islamic faith; and a film director, Theo van Gogh, is savagely stabbed to death for making a film critical of Islamic oppression of women. And most recently, of course, there were the Danish cartoons. When the Jyllands-Posten, in order to expose and challenge this climate of intimidation, printed an article and accompanying cartoons, some of which portrayed Mohammed in a negative light, the response was torched embassies, cries for government censorship, and death threats. It appears that we should now begin to get used to a similar climate in America. Borders and Waldenbooks stores have just announced that they will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because the issue reprints some of the cartoons. Is the decision based on disagreement with the content of the magazine? No, not according to Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham. "For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority." Borders Group's capitulation to Islamic thugs is understandable given the pathetic response of our and other Western governments. Has any Western government declared that an individual's freedom of speech is sacrosanct, no matter who screams offense at his ideas? No. Has any Western government proclaimed each individual's right to life and pledged to hunt down anyone, anywhere, who abets the murder of one of its citizens for having had the effrontery to speak? No--as they did not when the fatwa against Rushdie was issued, American bookstores were firebombed, and Rushdie's translators were attacked and murdered. On the contrary, our government went out of its way to say that it shares "the offence that Muslims have taken at these images," and even hinted that they should not be published. The British police, Douglas Murray reports, told the editor of a London magazine that they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack--so the magazine removed the cartoons from its website. (A few days later, Murray notes, "the police provided 500 officers to protect a 'peaceful' Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.") In the face of such outrages, we must demand that the U.S. government reverse its disgraceful stand and fulfill is obligation to protect our right to free speech. Freedom of speech means the right to express one's ideas without danger of physical coercion from anyone. This freedom includes the right to make movies, write books, draw pictures, voice political opinions--and satirize religion. This right flows from the right to think: the right to observe, to follow the evidence, to reach the conclusions you judge the facts warrant--and then to convey your thoughts to others. In a free society, anyone angered by someone else's ideas has a simple and powerful recourse: don't buy his books, watch his movies, or read his newspapers. If one judges his ideas dangerous, argue against them. The purveyor of evil ideas is no threat to those who remain free to counter them with rational ones. But the moment someone decides to answer those he finds offensive with a knife or a homemade explosive, not an argument, he removes himself from civilized society. Against such a threat to our rights, our government must respond with force. If it fails to do so, it fails to fulfill its reason for being: "to secure these rights," Jefferson wrote, "Governments are instituted among Men." And if it fails to do so, we the people must hold it to account. We must vociferously demand that our government declare publicly that, from this day forward, it will defend by force any American who receives death threats for criticizing Islam--or religion--or any other idea. We must demand that the government protect the stores and employees of Borders, of Waldenbooks, and of any other organization that reprints the cartoons. We must demand this, because nothing less will prevent America's climate of freedom from disintegrating into Europe's climate of fear. Dr. Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute has reprinted the 12 Danish cartoons on its Web site as part of its ongoing campaign to bring the Danish cartoons to the widest possible audience--and to arrange a series of panel discussions to discuss the vital need to defend free speech. To see the Danish cartoons visit: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...ish_Cartoons_01
  5. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Just a quick reminder--tomorrow, April 1st, the Rule of Reason hosts the second Carnival of the Objectivists. And you know after a week like this one, there's going to be a ton of blogs to cover.
  6. Originally posted by Edward Cline from The Rule of Reason, No, this was not an appeal written by a Jewish person to protest the abominable depiction of Jews in Arab newspapers and on Arab news media. It was written by Maheen H. Farooqi, President of the Islamic Center at New York University in a broadcast email alert to the school's Muslims about the display of the Danish Mohammed cartoons during a panel discussion on them at the university on March 29th, and to organize a demonstration against the event. NYU President John Sexton caved in to pressure from this group and announced that if the cartoons were displayed, the event must be closed to the public, and only "members of the NYU community" would be allowed to hear the panel discussion. Subsequently, not only was there a demonstration by Muslim students, but many of them bought tickets to the event and destroyed them in an effort to limit attendance. Meanwhile, in the real world of book retailing, Borders and its affiliate Waldenbooks have banned a forthcoming issue of "Free Inquiry" from their magazine racks because that number of the periodical will feature inside it some of the Danish cartoons. Cited were a fear of violence from radical Muslims and a desire to ensure the safety of the chain's employees and customers. Creeping socialism. Stealthy statism. The slippery slope of censorship and "responsible" public policy, also known as self-censorship. Someone please correct me, but I believe that Ayn Rand once remarked that at the rate the West is deteriorating, it will not end with a bang, but with a burp. The foregoing instances of submission to Islamic threats and pressure are warnings and guarantees of more to come. If you have not already noticed it, endorsement of the display of the Danish cartoons -- indeed, any expression of criticism about Islam -- is steadily being equated with racism, hatred, and discrimination. And not only that, but Mr. Farooqi has the unmitigated but apparently effective gall to assert a "bond" with "our Jewish brothers and sisters." His email "call to arms" is too long to reprint here, but it is chock full of gems. The Holocaust? Does not Mr. Farooqi know that the president of Iran, Adolf Ahmadinejad, has denied that it ever occurred? "We, however, would not encourage racism is (sic) any shape or form, and to us and many others, these cartoons are racist and we adamantly oppose their display." So, don't look at them. No, that's too easy advice to follow. It's almost as though he and his protest organizers want to see them in order to whip the Muslim masses into a window and skull breaking lather. In order to frighten cowards like John Sexton into capitulating to their "demands." In order to impose censorship. Oh, no, we don't want to impose censorship! Allah forbid! "The event itself and the topic that the students would like to discuss is not problematic in any way, but the pictures themselves are just hatred and there is (sic) no justification in preaching something breeds that kind of hate." So, Mr. Farooqi and his "brothers and sisters" won't mind a panel discussion of the cartoons, so long as the subject is not present, if it is unseen, invisible. Excuse me, but that ultimatum is problematic. If the subject of the discussion cannot be shown or displayed, what is it, then, that would be discussed? An abstraction that had no anchor in reality. It would be tantamount to a court trying a murder case but declaring all evidence of it inadmissible. And if the subject has already been deemed "hateful," why discuss it at all? What a formula for shutting down men's minds for fear of provoking irrational emotional outbursts and threats to one's life! What an appeal to submit to unreason! And what an excuse for Mr. Sexton, Borders, the Wall Street Journal and others to turn tail and betray the First Amendment! With allies like them, who needs Islam to imperil the Bill of Rights? But the chief interest here is the stress Mr. Farooqi and his colleagues at CAIR and other Islamic organizations are beginning to put on race, hatred and discrimination. Now, Islam is a set of ideas (if a random set of injunctions to kill or enslave infidels, together with contextless homilies, can be said to be a set of "ideas"), and to oppose it or criticize it is not synonymous with "racism." Aside from the fact that numerous Caucasians, blacks and Asians have converted to Islam, it is beyond anyone's power to deny that most Muslims are of Mideastern Semitic or of other large racial stocks. All intelligent, rational criticism of Islam has been targeted at the nature of the creed and its agenda of conquest, together with the fact that most jihadists and suicide bombers have been and will continue to be Muslim. Consider also the near conversion to a saccharine Islam of the Canadian "peace worker" hostages who, upon release, did not thank the American, British and Canadian soldiers who freed them, and whose statements lead one to believe that they would have been perfectly willing to remain hostages until they rotted. Their selflessness was in the same league as any suicide bomber's. Or consider the statements and behavior of American journalist Jill Carroll, who upon her release by her captors began spouting sympathy for the mahujadeen (Islamic warriors) who were only "defending their country against occupation" and who flaunted Muslim female dress. It is those mahujadeen, otherwise known as "insurgents," who are killing her fellow countrymen and thousands of the Iraqis she purported loves. Were these former Western hostages brainwashed in captivity? No. To judge by their portrayals in Western news media before they were taken hostage, they were already selfless airheads, susceptible to conversion to Islam. Mr. Farooqi wrote: "These same cartoons unfortunately have lead to riots, protests, beatings, and deaths all round the world." And all that carnage, together with the burning of Western embassies and the fatwahs against the Danish cartoonists, who have gone into hiding, has been the handiwork of whom? Whose violence was being committed? That of Muslims -- Sunnis, Shi'ites, and other sects of that mind-suffocating, tongue-severing creed were the ones on the rampage. Most Americans -- indeed, most Caucasian Westerners -- wouldn't know a Muslim unless he announced the fact. Do the cartoons foster hatred? It is healthy and life-preserving to hate something that is inimical to one's freedom of speech and thought. But the cartoons do not foster hatred. They are mildly amusing; some are incomprehensible. Islam, however, doesn't want anyone to be amused by Mohammed. It wants men to fear him and obey his Allah, just as Winston Smith in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" was expected to fear, revere, and love Big Brother. Otherwise, how could anyone submit to his will? In that great film comedy, "His Girl Friday," Cary Grant as Walter Burns shouts to his page editor over the phone: "Take Hitler and stick him on the funny pages!" That's where Mohammed truly belongs, in the comics, in the company of Hagar the Horrible and the Wizard of Id. Or in a Monty Python movie. When was the last time a Scandinavian suicide bomber blew up a Christian church because Leif Erickson and the Vikings were the subject of humor? Is dislike or fear of Islam discriminatory? Discrimination is anyone's right, especially when it entails discriminating against mysticism and anyone who threatens physical force or terror in its name. Discrimination in this instance is not a matter of race or hatred, but of reason-based revulsion for a degrading, freedom-crushing creed. No, the accusations of racism, hatred and discrimination are merely ruses, or strawmen, employed to deflect attention away from Islam's goal of suppressing any and all criticism of it, to frighten men from any thought of opposing it lest they be accused of those things. In the case of NYU and Borders, it worked. As a reward, alumni and corporations should refuse to donate money to NYU, and the school's trustees should fire Sexton. And Borders and Waldenbooks should be subjected to a national boycott until its finds the courage to exercise its right of freedom of speech. And the cartoons should be proudly and fearlessly displayed.
  7. Originally from Gus Van Horn, I found this TCS Daily article on an environmentalist conference recently held in Brazil notable for bringing to my attention an interesting example of a package deal called "biopiracy". Let us first review just what, exactly, a package deal is. From a footnote by Leonard Peikoff to Ayn Rand's essay "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made", in Philosophy: Who Needs It: Ayn Rand elaborates further in "How to Read (and Not to Write)" in The Ayn Rand Letter (I,26,3). "[Package-dealing employs] the shabby old gimmick of equating opposites by substituting nonessentials for their essential characteristics." The article does not itself attempt to give a concise definition of "biopiracy", so I use this one, from Word Spy: Uh. But isn't every country "foreign" to some other country? And while the "bio-" makes sense, why is technological innovation -- even if it consists only of discovering a hitherto unknown, naturally-occurring value "piracy"? Why not "biodiscovery"? Or "bioinnovation"? Or "biodevelopment"? The article provides our answer, by using the term in its full intellectual context: In other words, the natural biological resources of countries "foreign" to developed nations (i.e., the nations having the wherewithal to unlock the potential of these resources) are "pirated" if some innovator from the developed world has the temerity to develop said resources without cutting some local cheiftain or junta part of the profit. This is a classic example of a package deal. Here, a particular type of innovation (bioscientific discovery) and a particular type of crime (piracy) are treated as if they are part of a coherent whole. The opposite notions of (1) the intellectual property of the scientists and (2) the stolen loot of a third world kleptocracy are treated as if they are the same thing. This is done by causing the reader to focus on nonessentials: where the scientist and his subject matter came from, the value of his discovery, and the poverty of the people who sat around the very same tropical plant for years without taking any interest in it whatsoever, for example. As with any fallacy, the goal is to avoid having to make an argument. The goal here is clearly to use multiculturalism as a means of getting Western countries to simply hand over the values produced by their scientists to the governments of the third world. This means: to violate the property rights of their scientists. This is why, as the article rightly points out, if this idea is allowed to wreck intellectual property law, innovation in this area will grind to a halt and the natural biological resources of the third world will remain underutilized.
  8. IRVINE, CA--Yesterday, in a shameful act, NYU broke its own official policy and denied free speech to its students. After having approved the display of the Danish cartoons for a panel discussion on free speech, NYU's administration reversed its decision in the face of Muslim protests. A day before the panel discussion was to take place, NYU gave the student event organizers a non-negotiable ultimatum: if you display the cartoons we will close the event to non-NYU guests. This was in spite of the fact that NYU's own rules leave this decision to the student sponsoring organization. And even though the students opted for not showing the cartoons, NYU barred entry to at least two journalists and more than 30 registered guests. Even after learning that Muslim students had sabotaged the event by acquiring and destroying two hundred tickets to leave as many seats empty, NYU officials still refused to allow non-NYU guests to enter. In caving in to fear, in restricting and obstructing attendance, in forbidding the display of the Danish cartoons, NYU handed a victory to the Islamic totalitarians and their facilitators. In standing up to the destroyers of free speech, the NYU student sponsors of the free speech panel showed the courage that the NYU officials lack. Dr. Yaron Brook is available for interviews on the Ayn Rand Institute's ongoing campaign to bring the Danish cartoons to the widest possible audience--and to arrange a series of panel discussions to discuss the vital need to defend free speech. See the 12 Danish cartoons at ARI's Web site More information on ARI's Campaign in Defense of Free Speech NYU Objectivism Club http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000737.html
  9. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, You have to love the ability of antitrust regulators to find the "abuse of market power" almost anywhere. This report is from Europe: But why do this? The answer rests below. Ah, NTL "needed" it-in fact, it "needs" even more. So here we have a corporation enshrining its need as a moral claim upon all its competitors, yet how much do you want to bet that Rupert Murdoch and his British Sky Broadcasting Group oppose antitrust as such? I doubt I could even get one taker. Let's face it, egoism is a radical position, even among billionaires.
  10. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Another environmentalist is warning us that the world may soon end. The article goes on to describe the Deffeyes? ?peak oil? thesis, claiming that civilization has "driven off the cliff," and that "we're in for a hard landing." Yeah, the same way we drove off the cliff and landed hard with whale oil. It's amazing how environmentalists exploit ignorance of the basic laws of economics in order to sell their tales of gloom and doom. For example, it?s utterly impossible for the world to run out of oil. Let me explain. When you have a good like oil, price signals its value. If oil is truly becoming scare, speculators can forecast a rise in future prices. These speculators start to store oil for that future day when they can sell it for more than what they bought it for. That speculation causes oil prices to rise and any rise in price is met with rationing (that is, one finds ways to get by with less), and the search for alternatives (that is, one tries to find alternatives to oil itself). Man will not sit by and starve when it can build nuclear or hydro plants to serve its energy needs?that is if man still believes he has a right to exist in the face of the environmentalist's claims that he is a despoiler nature. Notice though that the environmentalists never talk about the market's ability to ration goods though price or the power of price to produce substitutes. The market is freedom and it allows for people to provide for their material needs, yet according the environmentalist, it is the market itself that exploits the earth and savages the intrinsic value of nature. That's why in my book, there's no such thing as a pro-human environmentalist. If there was, they would immediately become capitalists, fight for property rights and support man?s right to life his life for his own stake. Yes, it is that simple, but as we all know, its not going to happen anytime soon. The egoism question strikes again.
  11. Originally from Gus Van Horn, When I first skimmed over the title to this very important column by Richard Brand ("Why is Hugo Chavez Involved With U.S. Voting Machines?") over at RealClear Politics, my brain thought of the idiom "machine politics". "Well, now! It's about time," I thought, "someone wrote a long expose on the collusion between Chavez and Democrat politicians in the Northeast." This coziness, based on Chavez offering oil for prices he graciously reduced from the high ones he helped fix via OPEC, bears a striking resemblance to what he does throughout Latin America. An unchecked Hugo Chavez could end up having grave security implications for the United States. Alas, it was not to be. And worse, the column was about something else entirely, something that might obviate the need for Chavez to bribe gullible Democrats. Recall this, from an outstanding article I blogged recently that detailed the vice grip Chavez has on Venezuela. Who would have guessed that Chavez and his cronies -- never content to demonstrate the evils of state ownership of private companies on just their own citizens -- now own the company that makes American voting machines! The article, which follows this bombshell with details on the thrown Venezuelan election, then concludes: The bad thing obout Congressional myopia is this: there's a whole world of things one can miss by being near-sighted! I really hope, now that this has come to light, it gets taken seriously, especially by the REPUBLICANS, whose majority in the House isn't exactly secure to begin with!
  12. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Edward Cline's essay "Reality catches up with art" caught the attention of the Mike Rosen Show, KOA 850 in Denver, and Cline has subsequently been invited to appear on it this coming Wednesday the 29th, from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern Time. The show can be listened to over the internet (go to 850KOA.com for details).
  13. Originally posted by David from Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Finally, a public protest I can get behind. My stance is more radical the the protesters though: as I wrote on the ObjectivismOnline forum, I am against the very idea of citizenship:
  14. From David Holcberg: No one has a right to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a bank. Wal-Mart runs its business and earns its profits by the voluntary decisions of its customers to shop there. A Wal-Mart bank would operate in the same legitimate way. No one would be forced to buy their products or use their banking services. That Wal-Mart might emerge as a formidable rival to established banks and possibly take away some of their business would be consistent with a free capitalist economy. It might actually bring to banking the same cost-cutting strategy that made Wal-Mart prevail over less-efficient competitors and become the preferred retail outlet of millions of American consumers. Neither Wal-Mart's competitors, nor consumer groups, nor the government have any right to have a say in what line of business Wal-Mart can or cannot go into. Wal-Mart's rights are not up for a vote. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000726.html
  15. From Debi Ghate, Ayn Rand Institute: This is a reminder that the deadline for submitting an application to the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) is April 16, 2006. The undergraduate program is designed for high school and college students who want to systematically study philosophy and Objectivism while developing their thinking and communication skills. The program offers students an unique opportunity to study one-on-one with leading Objectivist intellectuals and to get individualized feedback. OAC students are also eligible for other specialized ARI programs such as conference scholarships, graduate advisors and teaching skills workshops. We have also just entered a pilot program whereby students can get college credit for OAC courses, which will lighten the courseload students will have to take at their universities or colleges. For more information about the OAC, as well as for a link to the online application, please visit www.aynrand.org/academic http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000725.html
  16. Originally from Gus Van Horn, AP Called on Attack Piece This Associated Press article by Jennifer Loven is getting skewered by the right-wing blogposphere for being a thinly-veiled attack piece masquerading as news. But the question that headlines this article at Editor and Publisher, "AP's Bush 'Straw Man' Story: News Analysis Or Unlabeled Opinion?", as well as its first two paragraphs, appears to punch a hole in the criticism. But Power Line plainly admits that Bush uses the straw man frequently, noting that although it is a logical fallacy, it is a "time-honored rhetorical device". In fact, the Power Line attacks the article for its biased reporting, and doesn't even use the word "opinion". I looked into this because I realized that the AP article did report something factually correct: Bush does employ straw men. If the AP were being attacked for simply reporting a fact, that would be one thing. (And it would be unreasonable to demand that the story be labeled as an opinion piece.) But the piece is an example of selective, biased reporting, which is another thing entirely. This is something that one can get away with if one drops the greater context in which the story occurs, as Editor and Publisher's Joe Strupp invites his readers to do when he offers the "news analysis" loophole at the start of his article. Africa: "The World's Richest Continent" On a long article about poverty as a man-made phenomenon in Africa, I found the following paragraph noteworthy. Confusing Apology with Advocacy At first, I was glad to see, finally, an article that advocated privatization of the potable water industry, until I read this snippet. Author Tim Worstall cites plenty of empirical evidence to support his contention that private industry can do what most automatically assume to be a function of the government, but in addition to the above parenthetical backing off from laissez-faire, he ends on this note: "We can't have just governments providing water and sanitation. Don't you realize it's all much too serious a problem to leave it to them?" Both of these remarks leave unchallenged the Dickensian notion that a water company would poison its customers and run with the money, and that water companies must therefore be "properly regulated". This indicates a either a low estimate of his reader's intellect, or a failure to understand that capitalism is, in fact, self-regulating. I would have rather seen some ink devoted to this phenomenon (which explains why capitalism provides services better than governments, which need not survive by merit) rather than on constant apologies to the reader for even bringing the "c-word" up on World Water Day. The World's Last True Blonde? I have no strong preference for any one hair color, but I did find this <a href="http://jewishworldreview.com/0306/pjohnson.php3">article on blonde hair interesting.
  17. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has the power to change the world. From her groundbreaking explanation of the power of the human mind to discern reality, to her moral justification for individualism and capitalism, to her defiant exultation of heroes, Ayn Rand presented mankind with a proud new vision of himself. This vision has inspired millions across the world, yet for Objectivism to truly change the course of history, those who are animated by Ayn Rand's vision must choose to carry on with the fight she first stated. And to help carry on the Objectivist fight is precisely why I founded the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism. When first launched in 1998, it was because I believed that the advance of Objectivism required a group that was both intellectual and activist and that was uniquely dedicated to defending Ayn Rand's trader principle as the only legitimate basis for our social relationships. The Center's mission was thus defined as using Objectivism to present policymakers, the judiciary and the public analyses to assist in the identification and protection of the individual rights of the American people. In the years since the Center's founding, it has repeatedly achieved groundbreaking results. Its advocates have appeared in the nation's newspapers, on radio and on TV, including economist Richard Salsman's appearance on NPR's Justice Talking and my own appearance on national broadcast television when I was a guest on ABC's Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. The Center's arguments in defense of Microsoft were included in the Department of Justice's "major comments" list during the Microsoft antitrust trial--the first time the Objectivist argument calling for the abolition of antitrust was given such consideration, and both times the Center held press conferences defending technology and industry and attacking the environmentalists on Earth Day, C-SPAN came to cover the event. The Center's advocates have also fought for America's right to self-defense against Islamic jihadists. In one of my proudest moments, after I debated the Oxford-trained director of the peace studies program at George Mason University on the right of the US to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, the university president who was in attendance commented that debates like the one I just participated in were "the reason we have universities." Earning that praise was an incredible victory, for it showed that our best efforts in representing our philosophy will earn us an audience--the first step in changing our culture for the better. Yet unlike many groups that refuse to touch the controversial, not every principle the Center fights for wins on the first try. The Center stood with students who were refused admission to a public university because of the color of their skin, just as it stood up for the free-speech rights of businessmen as they were sued for "false advertising" because their company bought newspaper advertisements that defended the firm from the unjust smears of critics. When doctors were persecuted by antitrust regulators for attempting to bargain with giant, government-created HMO's, the Center was one of the only voices to stand up in their defense--even when their own medical associations refused to defend a doctor's right to profit form his own hard work. Why fight for these unpopular causes? Because ideas and their consequences matter. Even if one doesn't secure an immediate victory, the first battle lays down the foundation for the next. And that is why I believe Objectivism's advocates must go to the realms where ideas are discussed and debated and profess objective truths about issues that are important to people's lives. If Objectivism is to have increased currency in our culture, its advocates must confront the enemies of reason and freedom with our answers to the questions of our time, even if Objectivist ideas are first met with skepticism. Remaining silent gains one nothing; only by being outspoken can one hope to gain converts. And I hold that this organization rests upon a combination of ideas, skill and ambition that ought to be nurtured and supported. The Center fights the long fight--but to continue, we need your help. We need you to stand with the Center and help make it a success. We need you to help financially support our advocacy. That is why I am launching the "$50K to Fight for Freedom" campaign. Fifty thousand dollars is what I believe it will take to re-energize this group and restore it to a full-fighting stance. Fifty thousand dollars is the amount of money the Center needs to be able to raise even more money for its projects, projects such as the Capitalist's Amicus Curiae program, our writing program, and a student leadership conference where the Center's experts can meet with the next generation of Objectivists and give them the benefit of our knowledge and experience. And that is where you come it. I need you to give your financial backing to the Center--I cannot do it alone. And if the Center cannot raise this $50K, it will be time to admit defeat and throw in the towel. This not a threat--it is a recognition of the reality that if we can't raise this small amount of money to conduct our projects, the Center simply does not enjoy the support necessary for it to succeed. I never have liked fundraising letters that take desperate tones--they always sounded fake to me--but I must confront the fact that this organization has its back up against the wall. I hope you agree with me that it shouldn't--that the contributions the Center makes in the advance of Objectivism are valuable and that with even more support, the Center can achieve even loftier goals. Please, join me and make a contribution to the Center today. Sincerely, Nicholas Provenzo Chairman PS: The future of your freedom literally rests in your hands. I ask that you act today and make a donation, however the amount, in support of the Center and its fight for a better tomorrow.
  18. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, This op-ed by John Lewis and I goes out to newspapers today: This case is one of those monstrosities that makes one want to punch the wall. For years there has been grumbling that the FDA is "risk adverse" and that its posture is to blame for untold deaths, while at the same time, the drugs that it does approve are later recalled. So who are these people to make massive life and death decisions for anyone, let alone a nation of 300 million people? Why do we allow it? It mystifies me. And it makes me think that another article that deserves to be written would be on the legacy of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle--the novel that led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. The theme of Sinclair's ponderous tome is that life is a hospice and man in incompetent to cross the street (a character literally drowns in a street puddle) let alone make a decision about his life. According to Sinclair, only the group is omniscient, by virtue of the fact that it is a group. When I read The Jungle about year ago, I was stunned just how ridiculous its portrayal was, yet I can't count how many times--going all back to grade school--that I have seen this text referenced as the foundation of our modern era. Spare me. The ImClone debacle is the fruit of our era. If we value our lives, it would behoove us to fight against those who think they have the right to control us.
  19. , the podcasting / radio show network by , is on its way... I look forward to present my first program on the Egoist. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000720.html
  20. At FrontPageMagazine is an interview with Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, who frequently appears on Fox News as a military analyst, about what we have learned since the invasion of Iraq about Saddam Hussein's dealings with al Qaeda and about whether Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The whole thing is worth reading not only for what it tells us about pre-invasion Iraq, but also for what it tells us about how some conservatives view this war. On al Qaeda and WMDs, it appears that the Bush administration is going to see vindication. Unfortunately, the Bush administration and some conservatives are foundering badly on the crucial intellectual front of this war. First of all, it seems that Hussein did indeed have dealings with al Qaeda. [ McInerney:] It was a fascinating experience to see the transcripts of Saddam's conversations. He discussed hiding WMDs from the UN inspectors and knowing where the inspectors were going to go in advance. He discussed their efforts to develop Plasma Enrichment for nuclear weapons totally unknown to the UN inspectors. But the most telling to me was the conversation between Tariq Aziz his foreign minister and Saddam in which they discussed having proxies implant nuclear and biological weapons in US cities. And it also looks like Russia did more than just covertly supply military equipment to Iraqi forces before the invasion. Why this isn't being discussed -- because we "need" Russia (and China and France) now to "deal with" Iran -- is troubling. FP : So the evidence appears to suggest the Russians moved the WMD's out of Iraq, correct? McInerney: Yes -- to three locations in Syria and one in Lebanon (Beka Valley) in the Sept -- Dec 2002 time frame. This information was provided by Jack Shaw, the former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for international technology security. He charged that Saddam's stockpiles of WMDs were moved by a Russian Spetznatz team headed by Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian Intelligence Chief, who came to Iraq in December 2002 to supervise the final cleanup. Mr. Shaw found this out through a meeting in London with the head of MI--6 (UK CIA), the Ukrainian Intelligence Chief and others in the summer of 2003. The Ukrainians were very close and supportive of the Russians at that time. FP: This information destroys the Left's main arguments and vindicates the Bush administration. Why do you think the administration is not talking about this? McInerney: The President is being ill served by his Intelligence staff. In some cases the diplomats don't want the world to know this as the three primary violators were Russia, China and France -- all permanent members of the UN Security Council and whom they need to deal with Iran and future contingencies in the war on terror. And if it isn't bad enough that we're still working through the United Nations, the following is an example of a very grave, fundamental error, of the type that can undermine our whole war effort by turning it into a fight for exactly the same end our enemies seek, namely, theocracy. Even if there might be some conceivable strategic benefit to some UN charade, this error is about the fundamental reason we're in this conflict. FP : Is Islamic extremism an ideology just like Fascism and Communism? McInerney: Exactly and it must be fought in much the same way. The West has not acknowledged this and consequently we have not educated our population that it is an ideology rather than a religion. This is confusing people because of our tolerance for the diversity of religion. [bold added] (Although this follows a passage in which McInerney says that Islam needs a reformation, he contradicts himself here.) From dictionary.com, for those who do not know what an "ideology" is: 1. The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture. 2. A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system. And how, exactly, is a religion not an "ideology"? And what automatically makes an "ideology" -- but not (any?) religion -- evil as such? I would have to guess from the limited context available that McInerney means that an "ideology" is man-made, but that religion comes from God, and that Islamism is a human perversion of Islam. (A later entry would seem to serve this contrived distinction better ("1: an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation [syn: , political theory] ") until one remembers that many religious conservatives see Christianity as the basis for American civilization. This is not merely incorrect. It risks, if not deliberately attempts, to get the war, incredibly, exactly backwards, changing it from a conflict between religious Islam and the secular West to a conflict between followers of the God of Moses and secularists. (Note that the "secularists" are the bad guys in both cases.) How? By taking advantage of the famous tendency of Americans not to examine religion very critically. Islam is excused from any role it might play in motivating the aggressors in this war. Instead, it is implied that the religion has been, as George Bush has said countless times, "hijacked" by imperfect men, and turned into a "mere" "ideology". (And so much for McInerney's contention that "[W]e have not edcuated our population that [islamism] is an ideology and not a religion.") Thanks for the updates, guys. The lack of media coverage of the findings on terrorism and WMDs tells us of one major weakness we face, a normally incompetent and frequently disloyal press. The confusion over what constitutes an "ideology" is far worse, however. For even if we overcome the first weakness, we risk losing our precious freedom -- from ignorance of its intellectual foundation -- even in a military "victory" over the Islamists. "A republic -- if you can keep it." That was no battle cry, but a warning to a civilian that the ultimate defense of liberty is intellectual in nature. -- CAV http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000718.html
  21. Originally from Gus Van Horn, How would you like it if the President increased the number of Supreme Court justices in order to undercut the independence of the judiciary, and, at the beginning of the new term for the court, the new appointees shouted "Oohhh! Aahhh! [Fill in Bush, Clinton, or worse here.] will not leave!" thus demonstrating the seriousness with which they regard their constitutional duties, the likely quality of their future opinions, and the high regard they have for your rights? Well, if you live in Venezuela, you do not have to imagine this. This is exactly what happened this year after Hugo "El Loco" Chavez increased the membership of Venezuela's high court from 20 to 32. Two articles at RealClear Politics paint a damning portrait of "The Man Who Controls Venezuela" as the title of the better of them puts it. Imagine any our Supreme Court justices saying, in an official capacity, "Oohhh! Aahhh!'' anything, and count your blessings that that is so hard to do. The two articles do a good job cataloguing the abuses of power of which Chavez is guilty in Venezuela, and the first even brings up some I wasn't even aware of despite my own interest in events down there. Here is just a sampling. (1) The article opens with what seems to represent the typical demeanor of Venezuela's leader during his frequent and interminable television appearances. (2) But if he issues threats to his opponents, he also makes a big deal out of doling out favors to his supporters. I find it interesting that Chavez has a Sunday television show. While the author of this piece compares Chavez to a "professional wrestler", I see him as more like some sort of televangelist with actual political power. (3) And, in case anyone is confused about how someone can both issue threats and pass out favors on television, the following vignette should make it clear that these aren't two conflicting sides of a complex personality, but simply parts of a well-integrated one. Chavez panders to those in his audience foolish enough to believe him when he implies that loyalty to him will always be rewarded, while methodically ruining whoever is in his way at the moment. Um. Wasn't Chavez supposed to be some sort of champion of "the little guy"? Oh. That's only if said little guy pretends to be happy with whatever crumbs Chavez tosses him, it seems. He gets fired, and then humilated to boot, on national television otherwise. (4) It is interesting to note that Chavez should have already been out of office for two years by now, had he not altered his country's constitution. And, unsurprisingly for a court-packer, he may be here much longer. (5) His mercurial handing out of favors extends even to elected officials. (6) And then he shows his contempt for property rights... (7) ... and the privacy of his citizens (which would derive from property rights). (8) And , not too surprisingly, you can be jailed because of his thin skin. (9) Most damning of all is the article's blow-by-blow account of a referendum that should have removed Chavez from power despite what one might fear would be long odds against its passage. I merely quote the last few paragraphs of it here. Thank you, failed President (and now, failed "champion" of "democracy") Jimmy Carter. The article is very good, but it ends on the wrong note. While it is correct to note the tragedy that our nation's failure to do anything about Chavez is helping to, "condemn ... millions of Venezuelans to a life in the flames," this is not why we should end this regime. I have already blogged on the security threat posed by Chavez, which is the real reason we should be interested in regime change for Venezuela. The second article on Chavez makes a few other worthwhile points, but its overall premise is completely wrong. Titled, "Why the Left Should Cringe at the Mention of Hugo Chavez", the article assumes that, if only more liberals knew what Chavez was really like, they'd quit showing him so much support. Aside from the fact that I think that the real problem is that most leftists could care less what Chavez is doing, its premise seems to be that Chavez is not enough of a leftist! Whatever its point, it is condemning Chavez for the wrong thing, is addressed to the wrong audience, and speaks to them for the wrong reason. If the leftists really cared about such things as ending poverty, freedom of speech, and peace among nations, any of them could have long ago dug a little deeper than rhyming protest slogans or Democrat talking points, and looked into the requirements for any of these things. They would have found that all of them require a strong government that protects individual rights. And they would have found, furthermore, that such notions as environmentalism, government-owned industry, and a reflexive disdain of business are contradictory to respect for individual rights. Support for Chavez will not end if more leftists hold him up to higher leftist standards. It will end when more of them start questioning leftism.
  22. Originally posted by David from Truth, Justice, and the American Way, NASA's top story is that the Mars Rover Spirit has lost a wheel. The Mars Rover mission has been a phenomental success -- lasting 2 years beyond the original 90 day mission goal. I’m happy for the success of the rovers, but I think it is pathetic that NASA’s resources are so badly managed that a two-year old mission is still their showcase effort. We should be hearing about many new projects, not breakdowns on old ones. If political maneuvering didn’t keep wasting billions on the space shuttle and the ISS (which were created because they were politically appealing) we might have dozens of missions going right now. Better yet, if they let entrepreneurs keep their money instead of taxing us to death, we might all be buying tickets to space.
  23. Originally posted by David from Truth, Justice, and the American Way, As you might be aware, the government passed a law in 1998 banning porn on the net on the theory that porn filters don't work. Despite being overturned by the Supreme Court in 2004, the DOJ is trying to resurrect that law (see recent attempt to spy on Google searches). Of course, the state of the art in filter tech has evolved rapidly along with the rest of the computer industry since 1998. A new filter called iShield is able to recognize porn images based on the content of the image (other filters look at URLs and text) and according to PC Magazine, is very effective at doing so. The next generation will probably be even better — which highlights the retarding effect regulation has on technological progress -- if we relied solely on government to ban "inappropriate" content from the web, we'd never know what solutions the market might come up with. The same principle applies to environmental regulations, which block more efficient and less-polluting technologies by mandating a particular technology.
  24. Originally posted by David from Truth, Justice, and the American Way, After South Dakota passed a law banning abortions recently, one clever blogger posted detailed instructions for performing an abortion online. Background here.
  25. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Here is a story out of Iraq that caught my eye: Let us consider the basic facts. There is no legitimate reason for Iraqis to oppose the US mission in Iraq. The US has toppled a bloody, brutal dictatorship and replaced it with a government whose constitution was written by the Iraqis themselves (and US policy in this regard has been excruciatingly deferential, for the Iraqi constitution is a mess). Despite the magnanimous treatment of the Iraqi people by the US, many in Iraq nevertheless oppose the US mission and have either given material support to the Iraqi insurgency, or have allowed the insurgency to flourish by failing to fight it themselves. In a direct attack against US forces that resulted in the death of an American, civilians were allegedly killed. Rather then blame the insurgency for creating the conditions where innocents perish, our own government is investigating our Marines for falling to properly identify their targets under the precepts of "international law," i.e. the Geneva Convention. Forgive me for being brutally blunt, but the only acceptable response by Iraqi civilians to an attack on American forces is for the Iraqis to immediately point out who carried out the assault so our troops can utterly annihilate them, and then hide, lest these civilians come between our men and their mission. Anything less is to side with the insurgency. Anything less makes these civilians the real enemy in Iraq--the real source of the insurgency's power. The insurgency does not exist in a vacuum; it survives only because the Iraqis allow it to survive. This story goes directly to the heart of Yaron Brook's argument against just war theory and the defects in the Bush administration's prosecution of the war against America's enemies. Our government is sacrificing the lives of our solders in the name of minimizing harm to the enemy. In the name of "international law," it is fighting an altruistic battle when justice to our men demands that they be left free to locate, close with and destroy the enemy without squelching their ability to fight. And last I checked, the Geneva convention have never been consistently applied to the treatment of our forces in battle. Remember the Bataan death march? Remember Malmédy? Remember the Hanoi Hilton? The Geneva Convention may serve our forces if America ever goes to war with France, but since the chances of that happening are remote, the Bush administration and Congress would be better served by simply acknowledging that warfare is brutal and that the responsibility for the death and suffering that occurs on the battlefield rests solely with the party that initiated force. The just war is the one that ends quickly, because the enemy's forces and their means of support are fair targets to be dispatched with ruthless force and deliberate speed. So at root, I say the Geneva Convention be damned. The war in Iraq should be brought to Iraqi civilians, who allowed Saddam to flourish, who either actively or tacitly support the insurgency, and who have taken little initiative to restore order to their own brutal mess of a country.
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